an archive of unsettling histories, mythistories, and mystories
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
from U.S. & Mormon settler colonialism, white supremacy, and imperialism
Unsettling Mormonism: From a love of nature to a dis assimilating from whiteness and settler-colonialism
Hi, I’m nic - a white (mostly British/Danish), ethnically Mormon, US American, non-binary artist who grew up on Church Welfare in Nuwu lands –– lands my people stole & named Utah's Dixie.
This project grew from the love I carry for that land–the land I was raised by & through which I redeveloped my spirituality.
After moving to New Mexico to attend University of New Mexico's (UNM) Art & Ecology graduate program I began studying settler-colonialism & learning about decolonization & Indigenous resistance from UNM faculty, students, and friends here in Tiwa lands of so-called Albuquerque.
Through this learning, I began to see that the only reason I have access to this land, this love for the land, and my land-based spirituality, is because my ancestors committed genocide, forced displacement, assimilation, and other cultural destructions against peoples Indigenous to this land –– specifically so that I could be born and raised and fed and watered and loved and saved in this land.
My body & my ancestors’ grew from stolen land, from the trauma of genocide, & the trauma of justifying, ignoring & gaslighting that truth. It is a part of my people.
How do I hold a love that grew in a massacre site?
I understood that growing our sense of entanglement with land is necessary for survival & then I began to understand that we settlers cannot reconnect with land until we connect with our ignorance –– what we've ignored. Until we work to remember our settler histories as generational Mormons & U.S. Americans –– until we reckon with what white-supremacy has intentionally whited-out, & swaddled in myths of innocence –– we cannot have a reciprocal-relationship with the land.
For me, this work is about disassimilating from whiteness & settler-colonialism through deconstructing the baseline reality that I inherited. Not only because it is my responsibility to reckon with the histories that are the reasons I exist, but also bc white-supremacy & settler-colonialism hurts us all.
Too often we ask, “how could this have happened?,” holding pity or shame in our hearts. Now I ask, “Who does this?”
Because white supremacy & settler colonialism are our issues. Our people made them, rendered them in scripture & law, built schools, churches, & government buildings to house them, made art to romanticize them, & built militaries & police departments to enforce them. And we fill these spaces with our hearts, minds, & bodies.
Who does this?
a b o o k o f r e c k o n i n g
in vulnerability and submission
A found-object poem built from the three canonical, sacred, and exclusively Mormon texts: "The Book of Mormon", the "Doctrine and Convenants", and the "Pearl of Great Price". Each text object was chosen to tell a story that would highlight the white-supremacist, racist, and terraphobic language found throughout these texts, so that we may be able to reckon with it.
Warning to readers: Some of this language is violent.
And some of you may need no reminder of this sort of violence.
"The Book of Mormon is a volume of holy scripture comparable to the Bible. It is a record of God’s dealings with ancient inhabitants of the Americas... The record gives an account of two great civilizations. One came from Jerusalem in 600 B.C. and afterward separated into two nations, known as the Nephites and the Lamanites... After thousands of years, all were destroyed except the Lamanites, and they are the principle* / among the ancestors of the American Indians." - Introduction to the Book of Mormon by Joseph Smith Jr., et al.
1 Wherefore, this is the land of promise, and the place for the city of Zion. | Do not suffer any unclean thing to come into it, that it be not defiled, | that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me | having their garments made white, being pure and spotless before God. | These are made white in the blood of the Lamb | that we may be purified even as he is pure. |
2 And, as I, the Lord, in the beginning cursed the land | and the earth with a sore curse, and was angry. | For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever. |
3 And the Lord cursed the earth with a sore curse, and many of the inhabitants thereof died. |
4 By nature, they fall. | And behold I will destroy all flesh from off the earth. |
5 Enoch looked upon the earth; and he heard a voice from the bowels thereof, saying: Wo, wo is me, the mother of men; I am pained, I am weary, because of the wickedness of my children. When shall I rest, and be cleansed from the filthiness which is gone forth out of me? When will my Creator sanctify me, that I may rest? |
6 And when Enoch heard the earth mourn, he wept, and cried unto the Lord, saying: O Lord, wilt thou not have compassion upon the earth? |
7 And the Lord said: I will destroy man whom I have created, from the face of the earth, both man and beast, and the creeping things, and the fowls of the air; | for the presence of the Lord shall be as the melting fire that burneth, and as the fire which causeth the waters to boil | and consume the wicked with unquenchable fire. |
8 And the day cometh that they must be burned. | And the earth shall pass away so as by fire | that I may reserve unto myself a pure people before me. |
9 Be ye clean that bear the vessels of the Lord. | | | Touch not that which is unclean. | Save yourselves. | |
10 Be ye clean | | | and chasten her until she overcomes and is clean before me | white above all that is white, yea, and pure above all that is pure; | a virgin. And she was exceedingly fair and white. | And behold the whiteness thereof did exceed all the whiteness, yea, even there could be nothing upon earth so white as the whiteness thereof. |
11 Behold, the Lamanites your brethren, whom ye hate because of their filthiness and the cursing which hath come upon their skins. | I will curse them even with a sore curse, and they shall have no power. |
12 Wherefore, as they were white, and exceedingly fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them. |
13 They became a dark, and loathsome, and a filthy people, full of idleness and all manner of abominations. |
14 And the skins of the Lamanites were dark, according to the mark which was set upon their fathers, which was a curse upon them. |
15 This people shall be scattered, and shall become a dark, a filthy, and a loathsome people, beyond the description of that which ever hath been amongst us. |
16 They were led by their evil nature that they became wild, and ferocious, and a blood-thirsty people, full of idolatry and filthiness; feeding upon beasts of prey; dwelling in tents, and wandering about in the wilderness. | Cursed shall be the land for their sakes. |
17 And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done. |
18 And their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes; and many generations shall not pass away among them, save they shall be a white** / pure and a delightsome people, | white like unto the Nephites, | a civil and a delightsome people. |
19 And the Lamanites shall blossom as the rose | that they may once again be a delightsome people. | For ye shall be a delightsome land, | yea, exceeding of all beauty. |
20 And the whiteness thereof did exceed the whiteness of the driven snow, | A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins. |
21 I fear that their skins will be whiter than yours. |
22 This is Zion—the pure in heart | have shed innocent blood, which crieth from the ground against them. |
23 And now I ask of you, having your garments stained with blood: Behold, what will these things testify against you? |
*words changed in the 2007 edition of the Book of Mormon
**word changed in 1981 edition of the Book of Mormon
i won’t say much, I think the video says enough
I don't know this video’s name yet. I'm not even sure it is done
The video was arranged a few months ago, the audio was arranged over 3 years ago
This audio has been in my phone all those years, while in shuffle it has come on a lot in those months, so maybe it was ready to come out.
I also want to acknowledge the vast influence Latter Day Labia's work has had on me and this piece and to appreciate the work she does in that valuable archive 💙
I was raised with three central questions:
“Where do you come from?”
“What is the purpose of life?”
“What happens after you die?”
To answer these unanswerable questions the Mormon church offers their “Plan of Salvation” (though I hear it is currently under renovation. leaders no longer teach that “every worthy mormon man (and wife/s) gets his own planet” which is bad timing as we become viscerally aware we may not get this one for much longer.)
This is my own response to the unknowability of our lives.
Can we hold the multiplicitous and often contradictory “truths” that exist simultaneously across space/time? What does a thickness truth sound like?
When I left Mormonism, I went to the sandstone cliffs surrounding so-called St. George, Utah. These cliffs hold refuge for the endangered desert tortoise. From these cliffs, the walls of the St. George LDS temple were cut. Among these cliffs I had a vision that still shapes my cosmology. These cliffs are See’Veets’Eng Nuwu land.
I grew up playing outside–the backyard, family camping trips, Scout camp, or later, out to the desert with friends to party and make-out in cars. After leaving Mormonism, I sought meaning and spirituality in nature. As I reshaped my morals I wondered what was natural, i.e. right.
I say this to say: what I used to know as “nature” is/was/always-has-been central to my identity.
So *naturally* I went to a grad program called Art and Ecology. There I focused on the ideologies that shaped my relationship with the lithic, the rocks–home.
Before grad school when I’d walk out in “nature,” I’d feel this Romantic sense of reconnecting with an ancient part of myself, of being in direct relationship with the sun and stone and all the life between them.
I thought these were unmediated experiences between my body and its earth body.
During grad school, I started to learn details of our nesting doll of extinction, biodiversity, and climate crises -- which nest with militarized, extractive capitalist, Christian, imperial, white-supremacist, patriarchal, dominantly US-caused crises -- and with racialized, border, refugee, poverty, pollution, public health, and MMIW crises.
All of which are grounded in land and our relationships with it.
I believe that a reconnection with land is essential for white-settlers, as settler-colonization harms us all (we are, in a way, a displaced people).
But what does it mean to connect to a land that you only live in because of an ongoing history of racialized violence and genocide?
Can we ever build deep relations with these lands if we ignore the often violently extractive relationships we already have?
Leaving Mormonism led me to nature, which led me to study settler-colonialism which led me back to study Mormonism—back to where I am from.
I am nicholas b jacobsen, an artist, researcher, historian, educator, and organizer. I am a trans-non binary Euro-settler raised in the Nuwu lands of so-called Utah. My family has been Mormon and Utahn for as long as either of those concepts have existed. My ancestors sacrificed everything--their identities, homelands, jobs, health, & safety to become Mormon, Utahn, U.S. American, & white--to settler their Zion. I take it as my personal responsibility to unsettle what my ancestors settled. and to help my fellow settlers do the same through writing, art, and community building.